Politics and Mental Health Sliding Together

The mid-term elections are fast approaching. Within a matter of weeks, our airwaves will be inundated with 30 second spots extolling the virtues of a particular candidate.

Soft, soothing music, or rousing patriotic anthems playing in the background as the special interest groups funding that candidate tells us that its candidate is a combination of Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Or more likely, that 30 second spot, with background music of a dramatic, alarming dark theme will warn us that a certain candidate is first cousin to the Anti-Christ and seeks to watch the world burn if he/she can be “King of the Ashes.”

And as our two major political parties, Tweedledum and Tweedledee continue to propagate their political agenda, that is, “The Needs of the Party are Greater than the Needs of the Republic,” the victims of this mindless, ever increasing power grab are you and me, the public residing in what was once, this great Nation.

National networks which once were looked upon as revered, responsible outlets for reporting news with integrity and honesty have become nothing more than public relation shills for Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  

The growing, detrimental impact of this unethical gamesmanship is not just increasing but is becoming devastatingly harsh and cruel. And our mental health is being impacted.

In 2017 and again, in 2020, studies were conducted on the impact of politics on the mental, physical and social health of US citizens. The results were alarming.

Some of the findings of these studies were as follows:

“Based on the 2019–20 Census Bureau population estimates, the resident population of the United States included approximately 255 million adults at the time of the 2020 survey. Based on that number, the findings from the pre-election survey suggest that somewhere between a fifth and a third of adults—roughly 50 to 85 million people—blame politics for causing fatigue, lost sleep, feelings of anger, loss of temper, as well as triggering compulsive behaviors (e.g. difficulty in stopping thinking about politics and consuming political information), and difficulties in impulse control (e.g. posting social media comments they later regretted; these estimates calculated using the percent agreeing or strongly agreeing with relevant survey items). A quarter of Americans reported seriously considering moving because of politics, and an estimated 40 percent—more than 100 million—consistently identify politics as a significant source of stress in their lives. Astonishingly, all three surveys consistently indicate that around five percent of adults report having suicidal thoughts because of politics—that’s an estimated 12 million people. [emphasis added]

“The results here indicate that Americans see politics as significantly degrading their physical, psychological and social health and that, if anything, the most recent presidential election worsened these effects.”

“Deterioration in measures of physical health became detectably worse in the wake of the 2020 election. Those who were young, politically interested, politically engaged, or on the political left were more likely to report negative effects…”

“Part of the answer may be found in the consistent findings of who is most likely to report that politics has a negative impact on their health—the young, left-leaning (Democratic identifiers), [i.e., every counselor, therapist, university professor and organization in the eating disorder community] politically interested, and politically engaged—as well as the consistently prophylactic effect of a variable that can be manipulated, i.e., political knowledge.” 

“Indeed, polls suggest that during his [President Trump] term partisan discord escalated to the point where opposing political camps disagreed not just on policy and governing preferences but even on “basic facts”. Those deepening divisions almost certainly exacerbated a pre-existing tendency for politics to take a toll on the physical, psychological and social health of Americans. Between Trump’s 2016 election victory and his 2020 re-election campaign psychotherapists reported a significant jump in patients reporting politics negatively affecting their mental health.” 

“The American Psychological Association identified politics as a major source of stress for American adults and there were sizeable increases in rates of depression, anxiety, loss of sleep, and emotional reactivity among groups with high levels of opposition to President Trump such as Democrats, racial minorities and students.”

This research article can be found here:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0262022

As we race to become the mythical government portrayed in the cult film classic, “Idiocracy,” the ramifications of the mental health deterioration of the Republic caused by politics are readily apparent. Friendships being torn asunder by differing views on a candidate. The person with whom we hope to date must pass a “Who did you vote for test.” People saying that they will move to Canada or Mexico if a certain candidate wins. Individuals losing their own sense of identity as they embrace every issue espoused by the Tweedle Party of their choice.

As individuals, we recognize, acknowledge and understand that being fallible is part of the human condition. None of us is perfect. However, when you take fallible human beings, and put them together under the flag of one of the Tweedle Parties, they become the Wizard of Oz … all knowing, all seeing, incredibly wise, incapable of error.

The Tweedle Parties are the kids fighting in the sand box. They are also grabbing the wrists of the public and are forcibly dragging us into that sand box. To make matters worse, they are not telling us that the sand is in fact, quicksand. And if we do not resist and are pulled into the sandbox, we will surely be inundated and slowly drown in the quicksand.

So, what can we as citizens of the Republic do to get out of the sandbox? Perhaps to start with, stop exclusively surrounding yourself with sycophants who espouse the same ideas, the same theories and the same beliefs you have. When everyone is preaching the same chapter and verse, new lessons are not learned. The mind is not stimulated to grow and evolve but instead, is cemented in isolation. A number of people are credited with saying words to the effect of, “Surround yourself with people who challenge how you think, not people who nod their head and act like they agree. Those people who challenge you may scare you, but in the end, they will be the ones there for you when you need them.”

Politics do not define you. Positions on individual issues do not define you. Having an “R” or a “D” after your name does not define you. The Tweedle Parties do not have a place in elevating or demeaning your value, your self-worth. Neither Tweedle Party has unique, all-knowing insight and knowledge about the goodness of your heart, the strength in your soul or your loving and caring nature.

It is long past time that we stop focusing on our differences, differences which are played up by the media and instead start focusing on how we are so incredibly similar. How we want to live in peace, with love, in harmony. How we want to all rise as one, with grace, with honor and in doing so, we allow others to grasp our hand and to also rise.

In doing so, we will start to address those mental health issues caused by the Tweedle Parties. And hands that have been used to strike our neighbors, our brothers and our sisters with fear and malice can be turned into helping hands of cooperation and love.

Birthdays

Today, August 10, 2022 is my daughter’s 29th birthday. Over the past few years on this day, I have written various messages about her, or fathers in general or eating disorders. Not this year.

This year, just photos … and her own words.

The bond, the love, between a daddy and his daughter.

The bond, the love between a daughter … and her daddy.

If you have children, give them a call, give them a hug … and tell them you love them.

BEACONS OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

A number of my past articles have largely leaned toward illustrating some of the more unsavory or questionable issues in the eating disorder community. And yet, there are certainly positive things occurring. People who inspire us through their humility, vision and selfless work. So, let’s highlight some of those good things, people, organizations and events.

Equip

Let’s start with Equip. Equip was started by Kristina Saffran, the co-founder of Project HEAL and Erin Parks, PhD. Recognizing a need for greater access to care and treatment of eating disorders, Saffran and Parks started Equip, an online platform in which a treatment team works with people suffering from eating disorders and their families. All sessions are done online. Equip assigns a five-person treatment team, a physician, therapist, peer mentor, family mentor and dietitian to the family.

Equip uses family-based therapy (FBT) as its methodology. In 2014, the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists released a comprehensive report stating in part that FBT showed the most promise and highest efficacy rate for adolescents suffering from anorexia nervosa.

By the end of 2022, Equip anticipates being able to operate in all 46 states and the 4 commonwealths in the US and currently is accepted by at least 10 insurance companies.

Investors certainly believe in Equip. Equip has been able to raise $75 million in capital.

Equip issued initial findings regarding its programming. According to at least one article, Equip reported that 71% of its patients reported a reduction in eating disorder symptoms and 96% of parents reported feeling more confident about caring for a child with an eating disorder.

Can Equip provide a more effective long-term solution in the care and treatment of eating disorders? It is far too early to tell. Is this type of treatment, virtual-online, as effective as face-to-face therapy? [I believe that certain important aspects of therapy can only be provided face to face.] Again, time will tell.

What we do know is that Equip is opening new doors and exploring alternative access to care. It is backed with significant funding. Its leaders are respected and driven. We all hope that Equip has a substantive and positive impact on the industry and community and we will be hoping for great, future success.

EDCoalition and the REDC

Kudos must go out to the EDCoalition, the REDC Consortium, its president Jillian Lampert, Center Road Solutions and Katrina Velazquez.  On June 23, 2022, the House of Representatives passed The Anna Westin Legacy Act as part of H.R. 7666, the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022.

This bill reauthorizes and expands the National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, which provides critical training, screening information, and best practices to primary care providers. The bill authorizes $5 million for each fiscal year from 2023 to 2027 to fund NCEED. The previously adopted act authorized $3.75 million.

These funds are dedicated to adapting screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment models for pediatric patients, expanding in-person and online training modules on eating disorders for physicians, consult with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs on treatment of eating disorders for veterans and military service members and integrate screening, intervention and referral to treatment models into electronic health record systems.

Nicely done.  Progress for one is progress for all.

NEDA

Liz Thompson, the CEO of NEDA and Geoffrey Craddock, the Chairman of the Board of NEDA, are doing an admirable job and have begun to put back together NEDA. When one peruses NEDA’s social media pages, we find a wide diversity of topics. Information about the different types of eating disorders, body diversity, information about important bills being considered in Congress, the importance of research and stigma.

My past interaction with NEDA may lead one to question why I would be including them in “an uncharacteristic, positive article.” Ultimately, when good work is being accomplished, when an organization can in some ways, seemingly reinvent itself, when an organization becomes focused and directed, we should certainly embrace and encourage good works. Ms. Thompson has a proven, past record of success in prior organizations.

A strong focused NEDA can help so many families. And that ultimately should be everyone’s goal … to help families.

Linda and Jack Mazur

The work being done by Linda and Jack Mazur should inspire us all. In 2016 their beloved daughter Emilee was taken after fighting eating disorders for ten years. The revolving door of treatment imposed by insurance companies and the lack of knowledge about eating disorder of medical providers in the late aughts contributed to Emilee’s condition.

Now, Linda and Jack Mazur are fighting back … with humility, knowledge and grace.  Their new podcast series, “Once Shattered, Picking Up the Pieces” is a compelling listen. Their book, “Emilee – The Story of a Girl and Her Family Hijacked by Anorexia” is a must read. In the last month, Jack and Linda also received approval for their 501(c)(3) foundation, “The Emilee Connection.”

Grief certainly impacts each person in different and unique ways. In the case of Linda and Jack, the daily heartache they feel has manifested itself in a manner which provides our shared humanity the opportunity to become bigger, better, more transparent and more soulful.

Families and Patients

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the stories of recovery, of resiliency, of overcoming life-threatening obstacles which are placed before our daughters and sons before they have the chance to find their place in life can’t help but fill us with hope for a greater tomorrow.

When we see the evolution of the heart and embracing of life shown by the many who first suffered from, and then who have overcome this insidious illness, how can that not let your spirit soar? When I see the young people who I have helped get into treatment start to fully live their lives … when I see marriages, and graduations, and laughter and love, when I am called a “second dad,” how can that not be a helping hand extended to lift me up and keep me from drowning in a pool of despair?

The times a parent has told me, “Thank you, you helped save my child’s life,” they can’t possibly know that to me it is, “No … it is you and your beautiful child who are saving mine. For it is you who are keeping my daughter alive in your head and your heart. And the only thing I ask of you for this precious gift is … to pass it on to others. Through your own work, your own passion, your own love.”

That love, that strength, that resiliency, that burning light of hope, is the greatest gift our community has.  The families are the sole reason for this community’s existence.

Our families deserve the absolute best from our community. Because our families are the greatest gift to our community.

The eating disorder community experienced perhaps more than its usual share of oddities, dysfunctionalities, egos out of control and lack of progress in the first half of 2022. And yet, one person managed to elevate herself to the very bottom of the bottom of the barrel.

A New Dr. Death

Jack “Dr.  Death” Kevorkian was a pathologist and euthanasia proponent. In 1997, Dr. Kevorkian was put on trial for his direct role in a case of voluntary euthanasia involving Thomas Youk. Youk suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, a/k/a ALS. Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder and served 8 years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence.

In mid-March 2022, for reasons known only to God and broccoli, the Journal of Eating Disorders published an article entitled, “Terminal Anorexia Nervosa: Three Cases and Proposed Clinical Characteristics.”  Its lead author was the new “Dr. Death,” Jennifer L. Gaudiani.

Gaudiani’s article:

(1).     Postulated that severe and enduring anorexia nervosa is a terminal illness;

(2).     Attempted to establish clinical characteristics for those patients whom Gaudiani considers to have Terminal Severe and Enduring Anorexia Nervosa (“TSEAN”);

(3).     Attempted to establish objective, clinical guidelines for TSEAN.

The private response was immediate.

Gaudiani should be commended for accomplishing a herculean task that most considered virtually impossible. And that is … she was able to bring together, to unify as one, all persons, doctors, research professionals, organizations and all other aspects of the eating disorder community and industry in one great, collaborative. To a person, every entity looked upon Gaudiani’s viewpoints with horror and derision. Clinical doctors, research professionals and advocates used the following words to describe Gaudiani’s article, “reprehensible, appalling, irresponsible and horrifying.” Naturally, public admonition came only from those outside of the eating disorder realm since “sacred cows” in the eating disorder community are deemed untouchable. Apparently, no matter what.

Not only was Gaudiani the author of this article, but she was the internist for the three guinea pigs … err, patients who were the subjects of the article. Three souls for whom Gaudiani was complicit in, if not the catalyst for, removing the very last vestige of one of the most important aspects of recovery. That is … hope.

To say there is a legion of troubling issues with Gaudiani’s article and thinking, or lack thereof, would be charitable. Nonetheless, let’s address just a few of the more obvious issues.

First, the article did not mention, let alone explain that severe anorexia can decrease brain volume. Studies indicate that individuals with prolonged anorexia have the most significant reductions in brain volume among all study participants.

Shrinkage of the brain and brain atrophy can affect cognitive functioning. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that brain atrophy can result in several health conditions, including:

  • Dementia: Creates problems with memory, abstract thinking, learning, organizing, and planning
  • Aphasias: Involves problems speaking and understanding language
  • Seizures: Characterized by convulsions and sometimes a loss of consciousness

Second, did Gaudiani take into account oxytocin levels in the brain? Research evidence shows that varying levels of oxytocin, a brain chemical, have an impact on anorexia. Now, three new studies of the hormone—best known for its role in bonding lovers to each other and parents to their children—suggest that addressing oxytocin levels may be a viable treatment for anorexia, which as we know, currently has no effective pharmacological medication and relies for the most part on therapy.

Third, Gaudiani’s “treatment” of her patients violate the AMA Code of Ethics Opinion 5.7 which states in material part: Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. Physicians:

  1. Should not abandon a patient once it is determined that cure is impossible.
  2. Must respect patient autonomy.
  3. Must provide good communication and emotional support.
  4. Must provide appropriate comfort care and adequate pain control.

Fourth, professional groups, such as the World Medical Association, the British Medical Association, the American Medical Association,and the American Psychiatric Associationhave all expressed unwavering opposition to MAiD.

Forty (40) states in the United States ban assisted suicide.

In an article published in July of 2021 by the Canadian Medical Association Journal entitled, “Deromanticizing medical assistance in dying,” the authors stated in material part as follows:

“Dr. Ashe speaks of providing MAiD as an “intimate and sacred moment.” We trust that he meant the interaction with the suffering patient and family before administration of the medications to end a life. Rocuronium, which paralyzes the neuromuscular junction and terminates life, does not allow for any expression of what the patient is feeling. We do not believe it is in the best interest of others to portray MAiD as something people should seek instead of natural death…”

“… writing about MAiD in a romanticized way may influence vulnerable people to seek MAiD through social learning, whereby they identify with the person portrayed and seek to copy their behaviour. This has been previously reported in 2003 in Switzerland.”

“We would not have the medical advances and healthier, longer lives we have today if previous clinicians all considered an easier death to be the solution to the burden of disease. We need to continue to research and seek ways of preventing and relieving suffering.”

Then there is the ethical aspect, or lack thereof, of Gaudiani’s article. Some ethics experts define Gaudiani’s conduct as abandonment. Bioethics writer Wesley J. Smith, writing in the National Review about abandonment stated, “Then why not allow an intentional, lethal opioid overdose as a “treatment” for opioid use disorder? Once you open the door for one by redefining it as “terminal,” you won’t be able to keep others out. When psychiatrists give up on their mentally ill patients — and indeed, are allowed to help them commit suicide — who will defend the value andcontinued importance of their lives? How will these very unhappy people be kept among us during their darkest days?”

When interviewed, Gaudiani insisted that physician assisted suicide is not suicide: “MAid (Medical Assistance in dying) is offered to individuals whose death is inevitable within six months from an underlying disease process; it provides patients a choice in how they die, not whether they die. It is not a means of suicide.” “When death is inevitable?” “… not a means of suicide?” Good Lord.

Gaudiani’s statement is nothing more than pedantic sophistry. Choosing a place, a method, and a time to end one’s own life is suicide. Besides no doctor can predict with certainty how long a patient will live. Treating MAiD as a natural end to life for anorexia sufferers is at best, medical neglect. At worst it is aiding and abetting negligent homicide. Doctors persevere with patients who suffer from cancer or heart disease or diabetes for years. But apparently, Gaudiani has become “Karnak the Magnificent,” who can accurately divine a date of death and assist in administering the final coup de gras. 

As recently as last month, The Denver Post published an op-ed article eviscerating Gaudiani.

I have spoken with at least two parents whose daughters are suffering from anorexia. Each parent was disheartened by Gaudiani’s article. Each had previously respected and looked up to Gaudiani. But that was before. That was before Gaudiani became the perverse proponent of removing that final, tenuous grasp of life to which so many people cling … and that is hope.

Desmond Tutu is credited with saying, “Hope is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness.” Without question, hope is that one last flickering candle in a room of darkness and despair.

Gaudiani seeks to extinguish that candle.

Imagine being in that dark room of despair, afraid and in pain. One lone candle sitting on a table. Its light, flickering, the wick slowly burning down, the one last vestige of light barely hanging on. You then discern a spectral figure in the room. And suddenly, dark eyes appear, staring at you. You then hear a haunting voice barely above a whisper murmur, “All … hope … is … gone.” You sense, you feel a puff of breath. And then, that last light, all hope, your very life, is extinguished.

Plunging you into permanent darkness.

Pronouns, “Mispronouning” and its Consequences

So, your child’s eating disorder has progressed to a level requiring residential treatment. Her physical health is impacted. His mental and emotional well-being is impaired. The biological aspects of this illness have compromised their ability to think, to reason and at times, to save their own lives. You live in a grey twilight every day fearing that today will be the day you receive that horrific call that any parent dreads.

Now, envision as you are talking with your beloved child on the telephone she tells you, “Daddy, while we were discussing my pronouns in group therapy today …”

Discussion of Pronouns?

In group therapy?

For (hopefully) lifesaving, eating disorder treatment

Pronouns?

Lest you think that is Twilight Zone thinking and would never happen … It has and is continuing to happen. And it has caused harm.

On at least two occasions, I have been approached by mothers whose daughters were in treatment. On both occasions, each daughter stated how uncomfortable it was for her to be subjected to the “pronoun merry-go-round.” [my term]

And so once again, we find the mental health treatment arena being hijacked by social justice warrior, left-wing radical political activists. Activists whose goal is not to lead the way to a greater understanding of the biological, genetic and physiological aspects of eating disorders. Instead, their goal is to dictate the ideological and linguistic territory leading to authoritarian control over the manner in which our loved ones receive care and treatment for mental health issues.

We are living in a “microaggression culture” where young persons have been raised to believe themselves and their experiences to be universally unique and therefore demanding of heightened levels of sensitivity and respect. Just as no two actual snowflakes are exactly alike (mostly because their composition is affected by their journey to the ground) the metaphorical versions are known for fragile hypersensitivity born of narcissism. This is the generation which was gifted participation trophies and where mommy and daddy swooped in to their rescue at the slightest hint of adversity.

So, in order to not cause undue stress upon the Snowflake Generation, and to ensure that they are receiving the absolute best eating disorder/mental health care possible, let’s review the latest university-based studies on how best to incorporate the proper use of pronouns into eating disorder group therapy sessions.

Uh … ok.

Let’s lower the bar a bit. How about ANY independent, reputable third-party research study on how best to incorporate the proper use of pronouns into eating disorders group therapy sessions?

And yet …

Forcing patients receiving eating disorder treatment in residential programs to discuss pronouns is happening every weekday. Even though there is no basis in research. No connection between pronouns and recovery from the various eating disorders. No reputable reasoning supporting incorporating pronouns into the therapy arena. And taking valuable time away from actual evidence-based therapies.

So, questions must be asked … why are some treatment centers and so-called professionals doing that? Why are unsanctioned, unresearched talking points being incorporated into eating disorders group therapy? Particularly a topic grounded in social justice activism such as pronouns.

Ok, let’s discuss pronouns. First, let’s review the number of pronouns. After conducting some research, I found a website containing this list of pronouns:

  • all
  • another
  • any
  • anybody
  • anyone
  • anything
  • as
  • aught
  • both
  • each
  • each other
  • either
  • enough
  • everybody
  • everyone
  • everything
  • few
  • he
  • her
  • hers
  • herself
  • him
  • himself
  • his
  • I
  • idem
  • it
  • its
  • itself
  • many
  • me
  • mine
  • most
  • my
  • myself
  • naught
  • neither
  • no one
  • nobody
  • none
  • nothing
  • nought
  • one
  • one another
  • other
  • others
  • ought
  • our
  • ours
  • ourself
  • ourselves
  • several
  • she
  • some
  • somebody
  • someone
  • something
  • somewhat
  • such
  • suchlike
  • that
  • thee
  • their
  • theirs
  • theirself
  • theirselves
  • them
  • themself
  • themselves
  • there
  • these
  • they
  • thine
  • this
  • those
  • thou
  • thy
  • thyself
  • us
  • we
  • what
  • whatever
  • whatnot
  • whatsoever
  • whence
  • where
  • whereby
  • wherefrom
  • wherein
  • whereinto
  • whereof
  • whereon
  • wherever
  • wheresoever
  • whereto
  • whereunto
  • wherewith
  • wherewithal
  • whether
  • which
  • whichever
  • whichsoever
  • who
  • whoever
  • whom
  • whomever
  • whomso
  • whomsoever
  • whose
  • whosever
  • whosesoever
  • whoso
  • whosoever
  • ye
  • yon
  • yonder
  • you
  • your
  • yours
  • yourself
  • yourselves

Then of course, there are the “gender neutral, gender inclusive pronouns”:

HE/SHEHIM/HERHIS/HERHIS/HERSHIMSELF/HERSELF
ziezimzirziszieself
siesiehirhirshirself
eyemeireirseirself
vevervisversverself
teytertemtersterself
eemeireirsemself

If you are going to enforce pronouns on people suffering from eating disorders, you need a complete list.

Since some are attempting to impose their “Pronouns With No Research Basis” agenda in the care and treatment of eating disorders without consequences or push back, one is justified in wondering how much further things will devolve. Will gender identities and gender expression become part of the eating disorder treatment lexicon?

If the social justice warrior, left-wing radical political activist in the guise of a therapist seeks to “educate and inform” eating disorder patients about “their gender identity’ and “gender expression” isn’t that a clear example of radical social constructionists bullying opponents into submission?

Certainly, bullying tactics are not an uncommon weapon utilized by the radical political activist. For example, a school district in Wisconsin recently opened a Title IX sexual harassment investigation. This investigation is not being conducted against teachers, nor administrators nor teacher volunteers nor any district employees. No.

This investigation is being conducted against three, 8th grade boys. So what was their heinous crime?

They are accused of using the “wrong pronouns” by not using a student’s preferred “they/them” pronouns. 

The “thought police” at the Kiel Area School District apparently believe that any so-called “mispronouning” is punishable speech under Title IX. Imagine a finding of sexual harassment perpetrated by your child becoming part of your child’s education file. That allegation could haunt those three, 8th grade boys for decades. Certainly, impacting college admissions and beyond. All for the horrific crime of mispronouning.

The Kiel Area School District appears to believe that any “mispronouning” is punishable speech under Title IX. During the investigation of these claims, attorneys for the families discovered information revealing that a young female student was given in-school suspension for “sexual harassment” based on a single statement using an allegedly “wrong” pronoun—and the statement was said to a third party, not even to the allegedly “misgendered” student.

To compound an already ridiculous situation, on Thursday, May 26, 2022, the District announced it had closed the Title IX investigation. However after receiving public backlash against their actions (allegedly also including bomb threats), the District and its community announced it had cancelled its annual Memorial Day Parade and the remainder of the school year would be conducted virtually.

Community events. In person education. All cancelled. A community infighting. Anger. Hatred. Division. Because of mispronouning.

Make no mistake. If a treatment professional wishes to parade their virtue signaling by utilizing pronouns, that is certainly their right and … privilege. They are ostensibly adults not receiving eating disorder treatment. In addition, if a patient in treatment during individual therapy wishes to address his/her pronouns and the manner in which it is impacting them, by all means address it. After obtaining that patient’s consent, utilize that as part of the overall manner in which bullying and trauma can exacerbate eating disorders. Take intelligent action and responsible conduct. A person’s heart is more accurately shown through their actions and conduct and not just their words or how they “label” themselves.

However, with regard to mandatory inclusion of discussing pronouns in treatment centers which drag that societal affectation into the eating disorder group therapy rooms, I am going to do something I have never done before …

MOMS, DADS … IF YOUR CHILD IS IN A TREATMENT CENTER OR PROGRAM IN WHICH “PRONOUNS” ARE A MANDATORY, REGULAR ASPECT OF GROUP COUNSELING, GET YOUR CHILD OUT OF THAT PROGRAM IMMEDIATELY. YOU MAY ALSO WISH TO CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE BENEFITS PROVIDER AND ADVISE IT THAT THAT PARTICULAR ACTIVITY IS GOING ON IN THAT TREATMENT CENTER.

Moms … dads … your child is the most precious thing in your heart. Don’t have your loved one’s care and treatment be sabotaged by those who place political correctness and social engineering over the welfare of your beloved child.

Forecast: Very HAESy Turning into Thunderstorms

The Woke Cancel Culture intermingled with white guilt and white shame is a growing weed threatening to choke out reason and common sense in the mental health field. And when reason and common sense are cancelled in the mental health arena, our loved ones die.
 
The Association for Size Diversity and Health (“ASDAH”) owns the registered trademark for Health at Every Size (“HAES”). Although HAES principles had been in existence for at least 40 years before ASDAH was organized, ASDAH states that it is, “… the holder and protector of the Health at Every Size® and HAES® trademarks …” 
 
Strange. If HAES principles are legitimate, universally acknowledged, embraced and applied, why do those principles need protecting, and from whom?
 
With regard to those HAES principles, ASDAH states: “… HAES is an inclusive movement, recognizing that our social characteristics, such as our size, race, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability status, and other attributes, are assets, and acknowledges and challenges the structural and systemic forces that impinge on living well.” ASDAH also states it, “Honors differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, class, and other human attributes.
 
ASDAH’s states that to use HAES trademarks, services must adhere to five basic principles which are: weight inclusivity, health enhancement, respectful care, eating for well-being, and life-enhancing movement. 
 
I am confident all rational people agree that these principles are not only legitimate but should be universally and lovingly applied by all.
 
That is, unless you are thin and white.
 
As Lindo Bacon, PhD, one of most well-known HAES advocates recently discovered.
 
I don’t know Lindo Bacon. I have read various interviews and listened to a number of podcasts on which she appeared. I certainly do not agree with many of her talking points, but there are a number of issues upon which our views align.
 
She has spoken at numerous conferences and is regarded as one of the authoritative, preeminent voices on HAES. In 2008, her book, “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” was published. The book was revised and updated in 2010. Her book has been lauded by many and became one of the “go to” treatises for HAES.
 
In the past year, Bacon sought to revise her 2010 book and to find a co-author with very different identities than hers to assist in writing the new book. And that is where it all went terribly, terribly “off the rails.”
 
Apparently, Bacon believes in hierarchical working relationships with her at the top. She is a white supremist. Bacon has demonstrated white fragility, white supremacy culture, and performative allyship. Bacon epitomizes condescension and paternalism. Bacon has already considerably cost ASDAH financially and emotionally, taking resources away from their advocacy work in the community and causing harm to their team. Bacon must be held accountable for the repeated harm she has caused in the Fat Liberation and HAES Communities.  Because of this harm, ASDAH revoked Bacon’s membership with ASDAH and is disallowing Bacon from attending ASDAH events.
 
Bold words. And yet, those are NOT my views and opinions.
 
Instead, those are the views and opinions of the leadership at ASDAH. The same ASDAH which cancelled Bacon and demanded that she take down a website she owns, www.HAEScommunity.com. A community in which over 20,000 people had subscribed and where they could seek HAES informed treatment resources.
 
As Bacon sought to embark on the rewriting of her book, in a series of communications with one potential co-author, Bacon’s views and “toxic whiteness” came under attack. This possible co-author stated the following:
 
“… Um, as we’ve spoken about, like, there is a lot about the HAES paradigm that needs to be revised. Like a lot.”
 
“… what you’re describing in terms of like, control has sort of like the implication that this is like a hierarchical working relationship and that I’m not okay with”
 
“It doesn’t make sense to me to have a hierarchical working relationship when essentially HAES should be more accommodating of fat liberation politics. And I am the fat liberationist. And I’m also the person with lived experience of fatness. And so I don’t exactly see how it is justified for me to follow your lead on the next chapter of HAES, when really, like, my views are the ones that should be accommodated in the new version of HAES…”
 
“I also know that there is a baked in power dynamic between the two of us, but it’s not because you wrote the original book. It’s because you are a thin person who is trying to do transformative work in the space. But you are thin and I am fat and that is the power dynamic. I’m also Black and you are not. That is the power dynamic, not the fact that you wrote the original book.”
 
“I don’t know if I would base an entire chapter on self-acceptance. If anything, I would write a whole chapter on the fallacy of self-acceptance.”

“… there is never an instance in which a person who is marginalized wants someone else to speak on their behalf. They do it because they’re held hostage. They don’t have a choice. And so no one’s actually given you permission to speak on their behalf. It’s just sort of happened that way because you happen to be somebody in a privileged body who happens to line up with some of the values that we’re trying to promote and espouse.”

“I don’t think that your continued visibility is a positive thing in this space.”

Good Lord. “I am the fat liberationist. And I’m also the person with lived experience of fatness … like, my views are the ones that should be accommodated in the new version of HAES … But you are thin and I am fat and that is the power dynamic. I’m also Black and you are not. That is the power dynamic …
 
Has there ever been a clearer example of a person who does not understand that the Image of a Messenger is not important? The Image of the Messenger does not inspire people. Far from it. Instead, it is the “Power of the Message.” A message that flows through a “Person who Leads.” A title, or image doesn’t make anyone a Person who Leads. Persons who Lead show leadership no matter where they are in the workplace hierarchy. It is inherent.
 
We follow a Person who Leads because they believe in a person’s innate ability to take charge and change things in a positive, direct, progressive manner. A Person who Leads assumes a place of authority because they are able to communicate their vision honestly, with transparency and inspires others to follow. Persons who Lead do not demand authority. To the contrary. Persons who Lead not only listen to, but welcome voices who disagree with him/her. Authority is bestowed upon them through acclimation. Humility and a servant mentality are their sword and shield. Persons who Lead understand the Power of the Message.
 
When Bacon reached out to ASDAH regarding a rewrite of her 2010 book, she was berated and then cancelled:
 
“The ASDAH Leadership Team stands behind Veronica’s thoughtful response that publishing an updated version would do harm and damage to the community by continuing to center white, thin voices in the movement. The ASDAH Leadership Team does not approve of or agree with you moving forward with this project.”
 
“At ASDAH, among the Leadership Team, with our members, and the greater HAES® community, we’re interrogating how white supremacy culture shows up in our work, organizations, and community. In your interactions with Veronica you demonstrated white fragility, white supremacy culture, and performative allyship.”
 
“In closing, we are unequivocally unified in opposing a revised edition of Health at Every Size® written by you. It will do harm and will not uplift the nuanced and inclusive use of our trademark as we intend.”
 
“In order to keep our community safer for fat, Black, and Brown folks in ASDAH spaces, we are setting boundaries as the natural consequence for causing repeated harm.”
 
“It is evident that many if not the majority of people first associate Health at Every Size® with Lindo, and not as an evolving, community-led movement. To allow those most affected by fat hatred to lead HAES® into its next evolution, we ask that Lindo take down the HAES® Pledge Registry and HAEScommunity.com.”
 
“We are committed to centering and uplifting the most marginalized people in our communities. We invite Black, Brown, fat (especially superfat and larger folks), transgender, and disabled community members to let us know how we can continue making ASDAH a safer place by submitting your feedback to the Leadership Team.” 

Again … Good Lord. One of the very first principles upon which ASDAH allegedly stands is, “HAES is an inclusive movement.” However, when you look at ASDAH’s recent blog posting on “Where We Go From Here,” ASDAH makes the following statements:
 
“One of the tenants of white supremacy culture that we have been grappling with a lot as a leadership team is either/or and binary thinking when it comes to worshiping the “hero” and lambasting the “villain.” Some have painted ASDAH as a hero and Lindo as the villain in this situation.
 
“Though at this moment the focus is on the harm perpetrated by Lindo, in an effort to be self-accountable, we acknowledge and name the harm that ASDAH has historically caused over its almost 20-year history. A culture of white supremacy and complicity coupled with past decision-making and actions have created an environment where thin, white people are able to maintain power in conversations about HAES® and to harm fat, Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, including our Vision & Strategy Leader, Veronica.
 
“At the beginning of this board year, our team decided on our grounding and guiding values. These include: abundance, curiosity, growth, integrity, intersectionality, trust, and well-being. These values inform our commitment to uprooting white supremacy and re-orienting to liberatory frameworks.”
 
“Around 2015, as body positivity and Health at Every Size® gained mainstream attention, things began to shift. The voices that were uplifted the most were those of thin, white women. By 2017, the ASDAH Leadership Team consisted of almost all thin, white people.”
 
 “… an Advisory Board team made up of folks with identities underrepresented in ASDAH’s leadership and membership was formed to support the organization in course correcting. Unfortunately, this group of fat, Black, brown, disabled, and otherwise marginalized folks was also harmed by ASDAH Leadership.”
 
“A scarcity mindset and white saviorism kept the organization stuck and unable to keep itself sustainably funded and resourced.” 
 
“Who can afford to provide uncompensated labor, but multiply privileged, and in ASDAH’s case, thin, white people?”
 
“We faced resistance from those who wanted to maintain the status quo of ASDAH, including many bureaucratic and white-supremacy-laden policies and procedures.” 
 
“Our highest priority for the 2022-2023 board year will be revising the HAES® principles. This project will be led by fat liberationists and Black feminists with significant input from our membership and the greater fat community. When Health at Every Size® is not firmly grounded in liberatory frameworks, it can become a tool for harm and impede fat liberation. The current principles uphold healthism and ableism while failing to adequately acknowledge the social determinants of health like racism and fatphobia.”
 
In ASDAH’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” manifesto, it references white supremacy or makes reference to thin, white women in a degrading manner no fewer than nine (9) times. And yet, ASDAH claims to be “all inclusive.”
 
To Dr. Bacon’s credit, after reflecting on the attempted professional and character assassination perpetrated by others, she issued a response which can be found here:
 
https://archive.ph/dQxLE
 
So as ASDAH recovers from the “egregious harm caused by Bacon” [ASDAH has never identified the specificity of the harm allegedly caused by Bacon … and to this day, I cannot identify what that alleged harm is … making more people aware of the HAES movement because of her books? Pushing to have HAES principles included as part of a more open, productive discussion regarding health? Nonetheless, our thoughts and prayers are with you ASDAH.], ASDAH is obviously going to turn very hard left, further politicize its beliefs and go running toward the very far left cancel culture which embraces one all powerful voice … its own.
 
As for the white, thin therapists looking for HAES informed counselors to refer patients be careful. You could be next on the ASDAH Cancel Culture Hit List. Lindo Bacon. Articles have been written about Jennifer Rollin and allegedly Shiva Rose. And always remember, there is never an instance in which a person who is marginalized wants you to speak on their behalf. They only do it because they’re held hostage. They don’t have a choice. And so, no one has actually given you permission to speak on their behalf. [Again, their words, not mine.] But just know when you do, you are perpetuating a toxic, power dynamic hierarchy in which you occupy the top rung.
 
The HAES movement at its core was supposed to be about fairness and equality. It was about casting off the shackles of prejudice of a society that wrongly places value on the model thin body. It was about fighting against the non-acceptance of a person. It was about destroying stereotyping a person because of how they look. Now it is about cancelling thin, white advocates no matter the cost to their own movement and principles. [Those 20,000 plus people depending on HAESCommunity.org will just have to find their resources elsewhere! After all, don’t they know that the person who started that website is inherently evil and has been hurting ASDAH in some way so sinister that even ASDAH cannot articulate exactly how it was damaged.]
 
One final message to ASDAH … On behalf of the families whose loved ones have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders and those in eating disorder community, leave us alone. We don’t need your faux anguish, your self loathing, white guilt, and victim mentality. Our families are fighting for the very lives of their loved ones.
 
And in their case, the cancelling of a life is exactly that. The ending of a life.

Transparency, As Far As The Eye Can’t See

The eating disorder community does not have an oversight agency, is without any type of dire consequences for reprehensible conduct and is without ramifications for bad faith behavior for those who exploit our loved ones for the sake of making a profit. There is no organization which has had the means nor will power to stop bad actors.

Organizations with a checkered history, for those who hurt people entrusted to their care have found ways to protect themself.

They start by simply changing their name. They can file a fictitious name certificate, change all internet references about their old name and substitute their new, slick fictitious name. They can market that they are a brand-new company. And all the while, they remain the same. They fool most of the people most of the time.

After all, who is going to check on things in the eating disorder community? The saying, “If a lie is printed often enough, it becomes a quasi-truth, and if this “truth” is repeated often enough, it becomes an article of belief, a dogma, and men will die for it.” has been in existence for thousands of years (although most recently attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for the Third Reich.)

Without consequences, bad actors do not have to conduct thorough background checks on prospective employees. They can pay a low hourly rate to employees who have the most interaction with patients, employees they refer to as “their MVPs.” [Shouldn’t that really be “MVE,” Most Valuable Employees?]

They can become an organizational cesspool attracting reprobates and predators. They can invent any treatment protocol they desire. They can invent new names for their employees (We made up our corporate name … let’s just make up job titles too. Who needs Direct Care Staff when they can be called … Behavioral Health Technicians!)  They can concoct efficacy numbers which would be cartoonishly embarrassing if they didn’t also contribute to deception.

They can do all of this without fear of reprisal. And why? Because there are no consequences. There are no ramifications. There is no oversight. There is no governing board, person or agency who can or will impose draconian measures to keep in check bad faith conduct.

Enough … Enough.

In the past month, three courageous yet frightened patients entrusted to the care of Castlewood, patients who were “allegedly” abused and betrayed by Castlewood, have become the faces, the public voices in three separate lawsuits filed in federal court against Castlewood Treatment Center d/b/a Alsana. Yes, Castlewood. That Castlewood. The Castlewood which never went away. The same Castlewood which was, and still is using Alsana merely as a pasteboard mask. There are other lawsuits against Castlewood which are waiting in the wings, undoubtedly, to be filed.

The same Castlewood which, in an article appearing in the St. Louis Dispatch on February 1, 2022, contains the following, “In a statement, Alsana CEO Gayle Devin called Doe’s lawyer, Steven R. Dunn, “a well-known critic of Alsana and the eating disorder treatment industry generally.” She further stated, “We will aggressively defend ourselves against these baseless claims in court.”

Ms. Devin also stated, “We take seriously allegations of misconduct by our staff, and as we made clear – in the context of a completely unrelated matter last week – we are prepared to thoroughly investigate those claims when they arise,” Devin said, referring to a statement last week, in which she said new admissions were being halted at two residential programs and one outpatient program. That statement said the decision was triggered by allegations that “employees may have been involved in inappropriate conduct involving a client receiving outpatient care at our St. Louis program.” [emphasis added]

Ms. Devin, you are to be commended for “thoroughly investigating” claims after your patients have already been hurt. But here is an idea which may seem novel … implement a thorough vetting process doing a complete background check on prospective employees before they become employees. Better yet, have an outside third party do the pre-employment investigation, drug screening and have a hand in the employment process. In that way, those steps significantly lessen the likelihood of having any more patients be harmed.

On March 1, 2022, Ms. Devin issued another statement. This statement is hard to find. Apparently, it was only sent to Alsana’s “partners.” Those entities which potentially refer patients to them. So, why wasn’t it sent out to the public? Why wasn’t it extensively shared on social media?

If a person looks for it on Alsana’s website? No, nothing to see there, move along, move along. When a person looks at Alsana’s LinkedIn page, no nothing to see there either, move along, move along. [But at about the same time Ms. Devin’s email blast was going out to Alsana’s partners, Alsana’s LinkedIn page posted an article about Channing Tatum saying his Magic Mike body was not a healthy body!] Channing! Say it ain’t so!

So, let’s allow the public to read Ms. Devin’s statement:

In evaluating Ms. Devin’s statement, if a “thorough investigation” had been done, in less than one month, Castlewood would have done the following:

  1. Identify all possible issues;
  2. Retain a law firm;
  3. Have that law firm draft a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to identify the issues to be researched;
  4. Accept responses to that RFP;
  5. Choose the organization best suited to this investigation;
  6. Negotiate with them and their cost for this exhaustive investigation;
  7.  Have that “independent quality consultant” assign employees to this project;
  8. Extensively review Castlewood’s long, sordid history;
  9. Interview all employees and former employees;
  10. Interview current and former patients (Oh… that’s right, you call them “clients” … it makes them seem less in need of care and more like corporate commodities), especially those patients who had been victimized;
  11. Review the lawsuits which had been filed during this time and do a thorough investigation into the allegations, review documented evidence and speak with all attorney’s involved;
  12. Conduct due diligence into safety and security measures implemented at other eating disorder treatment centers;
  13. Conduct an exhaustive study of past surveys and research projects undertaken by AED, iaedp and other organizations;
  14. Formulate the price tag for implementing changes;
  15. Request and review bids from various third parties to perform the work to be done;
  16. Implement the wholesale changes recommended by this independent consultant, which implementation would undoubtedly require construction work and remodeling at the St. Louis facility;
  17. Fix the broken-down septic system in St. Louis so that new patients do not have the pungent aroma of fecal matter greeting them when they first arrive in St. Louis;
  18. Then, implement these same studies at all the Castlewood facilities.

And to think that undoubtedly, this “thorough investigation” was done in the span of one month. And the important findings from “thorough investigation” were:

“While that review resulted in very positive feedback, there is always room for improvement, and Alsana is in the process of acting based on specific recommendations that came out of that review process. We are implementing clinical and safety program enhancements in our St. Louis program intended to reinforce company policies, including supplemental training for all Alsana program teams in St. Louis, and plan to expand these clinical and safety program enhancements to all program sites nationwide in the coming months.”

Of course, no one knows what deficiencies were found because well, there is no transparency about that. And no one knows what specific “enhancements” are allegedly being implemented because well, there is no transparency about that either. Has Castlewood filed any complaints with any administrative agencies regarding those offending employees? We do not know.

We do know that even before Castlewood has completed its implementation of these alleged new changes, they are going to start accepting patients … err, clients again on March 2, 2022! YAY! Those private equity owners are not going to wait forever for the money spigot to be turned back on. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

All of that coming from the same CEO who regarding the lawsuits, in the span of less than 24 hours, “thoroughly investigated” and reviewed all documents and evidence, interviewed former employees and patients, and then in compassionate support for her former patients, stated in the press that these were “… baseless claims in court.” Baseless claims which resulted in Castlewood firing how many employees? 4? 5? 6? More? Oh… that’s right. Castlewood has not been transparent about that either. Which brings up the seminal questions, “Ms. Devin, if the claims are baseless, why did you fire those employees?” If the claims are baseless, why the need for this exhaustive study and alleged changes to the program?

Tthe exact same expression, “baseless claims” was once utilized by one of Ms. Devin’s infamous predecessors, the now disgraced former CEO of Castlewood, Mark Schwartz. [As an aside, perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.] Certainly, Ms. Devin is to be applauded for being able to conduct her “thorough investigation” in less than one day and then label in the press as “baseless,” litigation instituted by her former patients who were so harmed by her employees, employees who were fired. And yet employees Ms. Devin and Castlewood are now required to stand behind and support.

Ms. Devin’s message was trumpeted loudly and clearly. And that is, “If you are a patient at Castlewood, and you are hurt by an employee and then seek compensation for your injuries, we will not only turn our back on you, but we will attack you in the media. Who cares if we cause your condition to worsen? How dare you come after us and our profit margin?

We have a name for people like that Ms. Devin … they are called bullies.

And bullies are only allowed to thrive in communities which have no consequences, ramifications or accountability. Bullies are only allowed to thrive in communities where there are no people of uncommon courage, strength, and resolve. People who remain victims. But, regarding the eating disorder community, that is no longer the case. I am not speaking about the legal system. Although the legal system can and will impose consequences where needed. I am instead referring to those incredible young women who are standing up to be counted. Heroes all.

So, Ms. Devin, as Castlewood opens its arms to welcome new patients … I mean clients, on March 2, 2022, there are a few, absolute truths of which you should be aware.

First, you are the face of those employees you fired because of the harm they caused to those young souls entrusted to your care.

You are the face of the company whose primary purpose is to make a profit at any and all costs.

You are the face of the company that cannot even be truthful about its own name.

You are the face of the company which “allegedly” hurt a number of young souls entrusted to your care.

As for me being a well-known critic of the eating disorder industry, perhaps so, but more importantly, I am merely a conduit, a means, through which young women, struggling and in such pain, are finding … renewed hope at life.

Young women who have been so hurt.

Young women who dare to stand up and be counted.

Young women who dare to say, “No more. No longer will I stand idly by and let others be hurt.”

Young women who have found or are finding their incredible voices.

Young women filled with renewed strength, with resolve, with love, with hope for the future.

Young women who have already won.

No matter what lies ahead.

Eating Disorder Treatment Center Hand in Hand With the Weight Loss Industry

The eating disorder community is strident in its universal opposition to weight loss companies, the “toxic diet industry,” and any and all other vestiges of the health and wellness industry. That position is an absolute and has existed for over a decade.

In 2012, women in the United Kingdom, negatively impacted by weight loss programs sold by diet companies organized a demonstration outside Parliament to, “… hit back at the multimillion-pound industry for “wreaking havoc with appetites and lives while it builds huge profits”. That protest had been organized to coincide with representatives of the diet industry giving evidence to an all party parliamentary group inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety. Persons attending the protest brought diet plans, slimming magazines, calorie counters or anything else associated with dieting and “ditched them in hazardous waste bins at the heart of the demonstration.”

In 2012, when the CEO of Jenny Craig was invited to give a keynote speech at a large conference in Australia, over 145 international health experts signed an open letter calling for the CEO of Jenny Craig to be removed as keynote speaker. The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) both made public statements calling for Jenny Craig’s CEO to be removed.

In 2013, NEDA released information demonstrating that changing eating and exercise behaviors can lead to disordered eating. In fact, NEDA estimated that 35% of dieting becomes obsessive and 20 – 25% of those diets turn into eating disorders.

Some health resources link chronic dieting to heart disease and other physical ailments. Some studies show that those people who experiment with dieting are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. These resources estimate that those who practice restrictive eating are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.

In 2019, more than 111,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking for the removal of the Kurbo app. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside WW headquarters in New York to deliver the petition.

Many of the eating disorder residential treatment centers also issued strongly worded statements opposing diet culture and the diet industry.

Castlewood Treatment Center/Alsana stated:

“Diet culture is a thief of health, life, and joy that lives in comparison, not truth; it is a food and body belief system that has saturated western society. It leads to food-distrust, body-distrust, body marginalization, and oppression.

We push back against the $73 billion diet industry that profits off peoples’ desire for weight-equating health, belonging, and acceptance while selling something inherently defective and harmful.

These hurtful assumptions and oppression lead to poor mental health, shame, increased insecurity, potential eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

At “Alsana,” we fight against weight stigma by celebrating body diversity and, through structure and intuitive eating principle work, offer a pathway towards the internal body and food trust.

We celebrate body diversity. We believe all bodies are good bodies, independent of size, shape, gender, physical ability, race, age, et cetera. We strive to ensure a body-inclusive, body-celebrated environment through our language, shared spaces, and relational approach to body discussions.

Diet culture has compromised one of our most sacred relationships: the one we have with ourselves. Many of us have lost trust in our bodies, and our ability to make mindful, nourishing (mentally and physically) food choices. Being bombarded with mal-adaptive, external systems of food rules and perpetuates this distrust, and we must push back to find peace.

Diet culture is designed to ensnare.”

This incredibly strong viewpoint expressed by Castlewood Treatment Center/Alsana is direct, uncompromising and to the point.

But imagine, if you will, that that strong statement issued by the Castlewood Treatment Center/Alsana was a façade, was merely just another mask to hide an insidious money-making scheme.

We know that “Alsana” is merely a fictitious name. Riverside, the parent company of, and through, Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC owns all rights to that fictitious name.

We also know that Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC is owned by The Riverside Partners, LLC a private equity firm. Riverside pours money into Castlewood and expects a reasonable rate of return. As such, this surely means that Riverside stands behind “Alsana’s” position on diet culture since it owns Castlewood/Alsana. But, what if Riverside, the entity which owns Castlewood/Alsana not only did not support opposition to the toxic diet culture, but owned an aspect of the weight loss industry?

What if Riverside profited from the weight loss industry by owning, and receiving profits from a diet, weight loss or health and wellness company?

Wouldn’t that necessarily mean that Riverside, the owner of Castlewood/Alsana, not only makes a profit from people suffering from eating disorders but it also makes a profit from an industry contributing to the proliferation of eating disorders?

Wouldn’t that also necessarily mean that Riverside could be contributing to increasing the patient population at the eating disorder facilities owned by Riverside? So, hypothetically, Riverside has covered its bases on both ends by creating a revolving door of patients, treatment, recidivism … patients, treatment, recidivism … ad infinitum.

The Reality

On May 21, 2019, Riverside announced it acquired an entity known as “Naturally Slim” based out of Dallas, Texas. “Naturally Slim” is a leading digital weight loss platform focused on helping participants reduce Metabolic Syndrome, lose weight and lead healthier lives. Riverside Managing Partner Suzy Kriscunas stated, “Weight gain has become a nation-wide epidemic, affecting more than 70% of adults. Naturally Slim’s services not only assist in weight loss, but also reduce the factors that contribute to high-risk diseases.”

Riverside Partner Steve Burns stated, “During our investment, we plan to expand Naturally Slim’s customer base, payor network and product capabilities, …” [emphasis added]

In order to better market “Naturally Slim,” Riverside changed “Naturally Slim’s” name to … Wondr Health. On Wondr Health’s website, it states, “Expect the Naturally Slim you know and love with a renewed vision and recommitment to our mission. And clinically proven results remain the core of our program, as they have been for the past 15+ years. 

A Director at Wondr Health disclosed its true intention, “This is a turnkey program that is easy to implement. The ROI [Return of Investment] is well worth the investment.” [emphasis added]

Prior thereto, on August 5, 2008, The Riverside Company acquired Results Weight Loss.  Results Weight Loss provides various weight loss plans. Riverside sold Results Weight Loss in 2011.

To yet be fair, how do we know that Riverside is directly involved in the operations of the Castlewood/Alsana entities?

First, Riverside incorporated an entity known as “Castlewood West, LLC” in California. That was done so that Riverside could operate the five (5) La Ventana Treatment Centers Riverside acquired.  In a contract between Castlewood West and the County of Alameda, Castlewood West represents that, “Castlewood West, LLC … provide(s) intensive outpatient treatment (IOT), partial hospitalization (PHP), and residential treatment specifically tailored to the needs of adolescents and adults with serious eating disorders (EDs). Clients referred to Castlewood West will be placed in their residential treatment center located in Pacific Grove, CA.”  

The members [owners] of Castlewood West are disclosed in corporate documents filed with the California Secretary of State. The members of California West are:

NameDesignationCompany
   
John McKernanPartnerRiverside
Loren SchalchetManaging PartnerRiverside
Jennifer SteinerCEO (Former)Lightfully Behavioral
Robyn WalshPresidentRiverside
Peter ZuckerBoard Member Exec. Chair of BoardRiverside

The only person listed who is not an employee or former employee of Riverside is Jennifer Clute Steiner (Castlewood’s past CEO).

So, we are left with 5 persons, none of whom are medical doctors, 4 of whom are employed by Riverside overseeing the providing of eating disorder care and treatment.

Which leaves us with two very simple mathematical equations which both lead to the same outcome:

Riverside + Castlewood/Alsana + eating disorders = RIVERSIDE PROFIT

Riverside + Naturally Slim/Wondr Health + weight loss industry = RIVERSIDE PROFIT

Imagine, Riverside has created a world in which eating disorders and the diet industry can walk hand in hand to collaborate, to achieve a common purpose, a common goal … and that is, the manifestation of greater profits for Riverside. Kumbaya My Lord!

I have not said, and will not say, “Do not go to Castlewood/Alsana.” That would be inappropriate. Parents and people need to do their own research but deserve all facts, information, transparent truthful information to enable them to make the best, potentially life-saving decision possible.

I can however say, with apologies to Zuzu, the daughter of George Bailey in the iconic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Look Daddy, teacher says, every time a person goes to Castlewood, an Angel loses its wings.”

CASTLEWOOD/ALSANA AND KEYSER SOZE

We entrust the lives of our loved ones to eating disorder treatment centers. Sometimes children as young as 7 years old. Parents living with their greatest fear … that their child will be taken. And so, we entrust those treatment centers with our heart, our soul, our reason for living. Accordingly, we are certainly entitled to demand complete transparency from them.

We are entitled to demand that our loved ones will always be protected.

We are entitled to demand that our loved ones will receive the best medical and mental health care possible.

We are entitled to demand that treatment centers will thoroughly vet prospective employees and conduct exhaustive due diligence investigating their background.

We are entitled to demand that treatment centers will thoroughly train their employees to provide evidence-based treatment with a level of care that is equal to or exceeds the generally accepted standards of care.

We are entitled to demand that treatment centers will thoroughly oversee and supervise their employees.

We are entitled to demand that treatment centers will provide a professional, safe environment where our loved ones will be free from unscrupulous, dishonest, unethical employees.

In fact, courts have held that treatment centers and their employees have the highest fiduciary duty to those entrusted to their care. They must exercise the highest degree of care for the safety of their patients. Therapists employed by treatment centers occupy a special place of trust and confidence and owe to their patients and their families, the highest fiduciary duty and a place of trust and confidence.

We are entitled to demand transparency from treatment centers in every possible way, from something as simple as their name to the complexities of their treatment protocols.

But what if that trust is betrayed? What should the consequences be? What should the ramifications be when a treatment center fails us? When a treatment center betrays us?

Last week, Gayle Devin, the Chief Executive Officer of “Alsana” issued a press release which disclosed alarming information. The release stated in part, “We recently learned that Alsana direct care employees might have been involved in inappropriate conduct involving a client receiving outpatient care at our St. Louis program. [emphasis added] Based on our initial review, the allegations involve significant violations of company policy, and we have taken immediate action, including terminating employees and removing employees who remain under investigation from any client setting.”

Later, Ms. Devin states, “As part of that commitment, we are temporarily halting new client admissions to two of our residential and outpatient programs in St. Louis as we continue to investigate these allegations.”

And yet, when the press release is carefully read, additional concerns appear.  First, Ms. Devin states, “… inappropriate conduct involving a client receiving outpatient care at our St. Louis program …” [emphasis added]. The singular word, “client” is used implying that only one patient was involved.

However, we know for a fact, that that statement is inaccurate.  There are a number of patients who were impacted. There are a number of employees who were involved. So, why attempt to make us believe that only one patient was involved? And since when did a person suffering from the mental illness with the second highest mortality rate change from being a patient … to becoming a “client?”

In addition, Ms. Devin’s statement would have us believe that only the outpatient care program was involved. So, if that was the case, why would it be necessary to halt new admissions into the residential programs? If the inappropriate conduct was limited to one patient in the IOP program, why were multiple employees involved and why are two of their programs temporarily not accepting new admissions. For that matter, can we believe that “Alsana” discovered and effectively dealt with all questionable employees? Can we believe that the patients who are left are truly safe?

Further, where is the next press release disclosing what other steps they have taken since last week? Have the families of all of the remaining patients been informed? What safety measures have been taken to insure the safety of the remaining patients?

Even still, why should we believe anything at this point? Especially since “Alsana” cannot even be transparent about their own name and existence.

Many people believe that “Alsana” grew out of the demise of the disgraced, Castlewood Treatment Center. A demise precipitated by lawsuits and horrific allegations alleged against Castlewood. In fact, on “Alsana’s” website, if you click on the “blog section,” you will see articles written about “Alsana” going as far back as 2012. “Alsana” makes additional representations that its existence goes back as far as 2002.

“Alsana” has attempted to position itself as a separate entity going back as far as 2002 and that it has nothing to do with the issues and problems which previously plagued Castlewood.

And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Alsana” is not a corporation at all.

“Alsana” is not a limited liability company.

“Alsana” is not a partnership or professional partnership.

“Alsana” does not have its own separate existence.

“Alsana” did not take over or acquire Castlewood.

So, what exactly is “Alsana?”

A search of the Missouri Secretary of State’s records gives us the answer. A fictitious name certificate was filed on March 28, 2019. Quite simply, “Alsana” is merely a fictitious name.

Under Missouri law, the owner of a Fictitious Name Certificate must be disclosed.  “Alsana’s” Fictitious Name Certificate certainly identifies its owner, the entity which totally controls its overall operations. The entity which is in existence and only wears the Fictitious Name as a public, pasteboard mask. In this case, it should come as no surprise that the owner of Alsana, the owner of the Fictitious Name “Alsana” is …

Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC

Castlewood never went away. Castlewood has always been there, lurking in the shadows. Still profiting and sharing those proceeds with its private equity owner. Castlewood is the modern-day version of Keyser Soze, the quintessential antagonist in the 1995 movie, The Usual Suspects.

As for those “Alsana” Blog Articles going back as far as 2012 and the past employees who claim to have been employed at “Alsana” as far back as 2002? How can those articles be remotely accurate since Castlewood did not start the fictitious name “Alsana” until March 2019? Before that date, It did not exist at all.

Which raises the question, if “Alsana” cannot even be transparent about its name and existence, what can it be transparent about ? Especially since other patients are beginning to step forward.

Well, litigation may tell. On January 31, 2022, as attorney of record, I filed a lawsuit against Castlewood in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Time may tell as to what this case ultimately reveals. It may result in closure that so many people so desperately need. However, it may also result in disappointment to those who seek justice.

What we do know is that the courtroom is a crucible in which all irrelevancies and subterfuge are burned away. What we are left with is the truth.

Truth that families can rely upon.

Truth that can sustain those who suffer from eating disorders.

Truth that can bring peace and comfort to some.

And Truth that can also bring something else …

Retribution, consequences and accountability to others.

WHEN THE PREDATOR BECOMES THE PREY

Just when you think it cannot get worse…

[Castlewood continues to market itself to the general public as Alsana. That topic will be the subject of a future article. I will continue to refer to them as what they really are … Castlewood.]

As of Friday, December 17, 2021, despite having actual knowledge of Brittney Gibbs’ predatory nature, Gibbs remained an employee of Castlewood. An employee conducting group sessions. An employee conducting individual sessions. With your children. With your loved ones.

For approximately four (4) weeks:

Castlewood has had actual knowledge about Gibbs’ background.

Castlewood has had actual knowledge about the reprehensible acts committed by Gibbs.

Castlewood has had actual knowledge as to her horrific statements.

Castlewood has had actual knowledge that Gibbs likes to hurt people because it makes her feel good.

Castlewood has had actual knowledge that she has harmed patients at their St. Louis facility.

And Castlewood’s response?

It has publicly done … nothing.

To review, these were some of Gibbs’ statements just two years ago along with some of her very recent communications with patients at Castlewood:

“And proud of you for not listening or allowing your mother to tell you to continue to be abused. You have others supporting you and see what [Husband] is doing. They will in time but who cares.”

“You have to do what is right for you and your boys and that’s happy healthy peace love. [Husband] is none of that your doing.”

“Everything has to be strategic. There are no emotions when talking to him [Husband] strictly strategic to get full custody and spouse and child support.”

“Fuck love. Love hurts. Get a hobby.”

“Can you see if there’s a [arrest] warrant out?” [for the arrest of Gibbs]

“Apart of me is sad that I upset you becuz of my pain but that’s what I am practicing telling my friends when I’m drownin and I’m not perfect it gets dark sometimes I forget all the good I didn’t mean to scare you but I was honest you made me promise to do that.”

I reflected and realized I hurt others on purpose because it makes me feel good.” … “There’s a darkness in me …”

“I can be toxic to the people I love.”

I participated in the toxic behaviors I didn’t know any better, and sometimes I knew better but did not care.” “But, some days I hate myself, and I cause hell in other people’s lives.”

“One day I wont say things to people strictly to hurt them.”

“I became strong built from rage, and hate.”

That is the type of predator Castlewood is employing and refusing to fire. And now, Gibbs’ actions are escalating in that she is defying the legal system as she hopes to hide evidence of her reprehensible conduct and character.

Gibbs, while Castlewood’s employee, destroyed material evidence.

On November 23, 2021, Castlewood was advised through its attorneys about some of Gibbs’ reprehensible conduct. Demand was also made to preserve all electronic evidence and information. The preservation of this information is crucial to the litigation process. Especially since if a bad actor knows she has possession of damning information, they could do all within their power to hide or destroy this evidence.

The following demand was made:

“In order to protect any other patient who may have been, or who continues to be subjected to Ms. Gibbs’ mental and emotional abuse and implantation of repressed memories, demand is herein made for an immediate investigation into Ms. Gibbs, including having Ms. Gibbs turn over all of her social media posts, including but not limited to Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, reddit, Tumblr, WhatsApp, YouTube, twitter, Pinterest, and others, text messages, recordings of telephone calls, emails and any and all communications she has had with patients of Castlewood or who may have had any contact or communications with her from the first day of her employment to date. Further, demand is made that Ms. Gibbs be prevented from erasing, changing, deleting or altering in any manner, any such communication.”

In  law, this demand is called a “spoliation notice.” When an attorney sends a spoliation letter you are putting the other party on notice that documents or items in their possession may be used to prove your claim and that they are, therefore, responsible for preserving them. In other words, you are notifying the other party of their duty not to destroy evidence. Failing to preserve these items after receiving such a notice will result in sanctions being imposed on the defendant and could give rise to the presumption that the evidence would have been harmful to their defense and instruction may be given to the jury to make such an adverse inference.

So, in response to the November 23 letter, what did Castlewood and Gibbs do? Instead of preserving all evidence, Gibbs first deleted her Tik Tok account. Her Tik Tok account allegedly contained numerous videos, some of which are directly related to the claims made.

Then, after the last article was published, Gibbs, while an employee of Castlewood escalated her bad faith conduct by deleting her Twitter account. Gibbs’ past misconduct and character flaws were set forth in her own articles on that Twitter account. So, contrary to the requirements of the legal system, Gibbs, while an employee of Castlewood destroyed relevant evidence.

Four (4) weeks have elapsed since the November 23 demand. Four (4) weeks to conduct an investigation. Four (4) weeks to determine whether the complaints have merit and take action. And yet, as of last Friday, Gibbs was still employed by Castlewood.

As such, there are only two (2) logical conclusions which can be drawn:

(1). That Castlewood conducted its investigation and determined that Gibbs’ conduct and statements did not merit her being supervised, suspended or fired, or;

(2). That Castlewood did not conduct any investigation at all.

If the first conclusion is applicable, then Castlewood stands behind Gibbs. Gibbs’ actions are Castlewood’s actions. She is the type of employee they welcome, and they believe she did nothing wrong. If the second conclusion applies, then Castlewood’s conduct is grossly negligent.

So, which is it?

Do they stand arm-in-arm with a predator whose strength is derived from hate and rage, a predator who hurts people because it makes her feel good, a person who destroys evidence? Or is Castlewood grossly negligent by not conducting an investigation and by such, continues to subject their patients to a predator?

Whichever is the case, the legal system will sort through Castlewood’s conduct. The legal system will determine Castlewood’s fate.

Certainly, the legal system knows how to handle treatment centers that are arrogant, blind, callous and who allow a predator to prey on the vulnerable. The eating disorder community may not know how to police its own. But, third parties, including the legal system, federal agencies and the Joint Commission do. And now it is Gibbs’ turn to be afraid. Gibbs, along with her employer, Castlewood have become the prey.

And certainly, I, along with the legal system, will show Castlewood the same amount of mercy that its predator employee showed to her victims, those persons she harmed.

Sine missione.